No pouting if Reds remain on the river

Monday, June 15, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Looks as if the new Reds baseball stadium is going on the riverfront. Barring any more phone calls between Marge Schott and Jim Tarbell, a decision could be announced as early as this week, maybe even at Wednesday's meeting of the Hamilton County commissioners.

When the announcement is finally made, Cincinnati Reds fans will get a riverfront stadium dubbed "Baseball on Main" for its location, "the Wedge" for how it'll be shoehorned next to the Crown and "the Wedgie" for how it feels to me.

As a Broadway Commons supporter, I am not pleased that a Reds riverfront stadium is essentially a done deal. For a long time, I've felt Broadway Commons is the best site for the stadium. Building the Reds' new park with a view of Mount Adams would be in the best interests of the Reds, the city and us, the citizens whose taxes are going to pay for the thing.

My opinion has not changed. But reality has altered my thinking. The Reds are going down by the river. And that's that.

Build the best

Breaking with one of Cincinnati's longstanding traditions, pouting when you don't get your way, I'm not going to hold a grudge over what I consider to be a boneheaded decision. Doing something stupid such as boycotting the Reds' games is out of the question.

Grudges and boycotts take time away from what's really important. And, what's of prime importance to Cincinnati is building the best ballpark in baseball.

Losing the battle over the site of the Reds' stadium doesn't mean you have lost the war. To me, victory means building a ballpark that is as grand as the traditions surrounding the ball club.

So, when I imagine the Reds' new home, here's what I see:

- A retro ballpark -- Seats close to the field. Great sight lines. Welcoming views of the city's skyline and the river. An exterior wrapped in a brick facade circa 1900. A Crosley Field for the new century.

- Reds Hall of Fame -- Freestanding building next to the ballpark. Same brick-and-mortar style as the stadium. Open year-round. Filled with memorabilia, time lines, interactive exhibits and displays highlighting the players and history of the oldest team in professional baseball.

- Reds Super Store -- At Cleveland's Jacobs Field, the huge Indians' store is also hugely successful. Before a game, fans wait in line outside the store, just for the chance to buy merchandise in a space the size of an extra-large chain drugstore. In Cincinnati, the Reds store must be connected to the stadium and open for business even when the team's not in town.

- Smiling faces -- Stadium employees act as if they're happy to see you. Gone are the ushers who take you to your seat as if they were leading condemned prisoners to the electric chair.

- Greeters -- Outside Jacobs Field, greeters welcome fans, show them the right gate to enter and troubleshoot ticket problems. After the game, the greeters stand at the exits and tell fans: "Goodbye. Hope you had a good time. Please come back." It may seem like a little thing, but being courteous is just one reason Cleveland's games are always sold out.

- Attention to detail -- The architecture, design and construction are flawless. Everything looks first-class. Nothing's generic. Everything in the stadium speaks to Cincinnati's mania for neatness and pride in a job well-done.

- A winning team -- I have a vivid imagination.

- A championship riverfront -- With three man-made behemoths sitting along the river, the Reds' new home, the Bengals' stadium and the refurbished Crown must be integrated into the system of parks and shops envisioned for Cincinnati's revitalized riverfront. Anything less is totally unacceptable.

That's just the start of my wish list for a new Reds stadium. You must have hopes and dreams for it, too. I'd like to hear about them. My phone and fax numbers appear below. When it comes to making the Reds stadium the best there is, those lines are always open.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.